Random Loiterer: “Oh my god, we had to read this book when I was in high school. I had no idea it was based on a comic book!”
She then approached the counter with her copy of the Pride and Prejudice graphic novel. She also bought a copy of My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic #2. Not that I’m implying there is a correlation.
A subscriber who I don’t see too often comes into the store and says “James Brown, huh? Are you saying it loud that you’re black and you’re proud?”
I put on my best mock-offended face. ”No. Clearly, I have ants in my pants and I need to dance!”
A couple of Harvard students in their twenties walk into the store. ”No, I’m not interested in the stupid inauguration. I’m so tired of listening to people go on and on about him being the first Black President. People forget that he’s also, technically, the first Asian President.”
"I know, right?" says the other guy. "But I read an article about how the Asians won’t claim him because he looks more Black than Asian."
This goes on for approximately two minutes while I bite my tongue harder and harder until I can’t will myself to remain quiet anymore. ”By any chance,” I ask them, “are you two confusing Barack Obama with Tiger Woods?”
"No, I—" starts one.
"Oh my god, we are IDIOTS." says the second one.
"Shhh. We can never talk about this again. THIS NEVER HAPPENED."
A guy in a black fedora with a blue feather walks in with his family. A preteen daughter and a son around 15 or 16. He spends the first two minutes in the store fidgeting and blinking. He can’t seem to look at anything for more than five seconds at a time, so I’m imagining he has some sort of speed problem. And, unfortunately, the problem isn’t that he can’t get his hands on speed.
His daughter picks up an exceptionally well written middle school graphic novel called “Drama”.
Daughter: “Hey, Dad, I found this book about…”
Father, without a trace of humor: “Again with the books?” He rubs his nose.
"Why do you have to read so many books. Watch TV like a normal kid. You want people to think you’re a lesbian?"
A very friendly seeming woman comes in with her husband. She stops at the customer recommendation shelf and says “Oh, honey, look a Feynman book!” Hands it to him, and then wanders over to the new comics wall.
The man flips through the book, makes approving noises and says “I’m going to buy this. Thanks, honey.”
She puts her books down on the counter and asks “What is it about?”
He says “It’s a graphic novel version of his autobiography.” Which is close to correct.
She scowls. ”Oh. It’s a picture book. That’s kind of childish.”
And I ask “Would you like a bag for your My Little Pony Friend Is Magic comics? Ma’am?”
A well moustached man comes into the store and, without looking at anything says “Boy, comics sure have changed over the last fifty years.”
I smile. “That’s true. Everything’s changed over the last fifty years.”
WMM: “But comic art. It used to be…different.”
I smile. “Well, artists have a lot more technology at their disposal.”
Our conversation bounces around to comic book movies from the 90s like The Shadow and Dick Tracy. And then he asks “I mean…comics..they don’t…they don’t have any…they don’t have any adult themes.”
I smile. “Some do. To varying degrees. Drugs, rel—”
WMM: “But there are horror books now. There never used to be.”
I smile. “Sure there were. That was one of the big contentions that led to the comic book code in the 1950s. Seduction Of The Innocent.”
WMM: “Oh, sure. Sure.” He wanders around a bit. “Did they…did they ever make…you know…dirty comics?”
I smile. “Always. There was cartoon smut before there was Superman. It’s tapered off quite a bit since The Internet increased in popularity. But we still have some XXX books over there.” I point to The Adult Section.
He smiles, weakly, as he makes his way to that section. “Well, curiosity killed The Catholic.”
About forty-five minutes later, he walks back over shaking his head. “Dr. Zeus would be flipping in his grave.”
I do not smile. “Dr. Zeus?”
WMM: “There’s a book over there called ‘Are You My Mother’. I heard it was about lesbians or something. ‘Are You My Mother’ is a Dr. Zeus line.”
"Oh, the children’s book? That’s not Dr. Seuss." And I hit the S in Seuss as hard as possible. “I think it’s Eastman. Bechdel’s book is unrelated.”
WMM:”I should hope do. Dr. Zeus is supposed to be about kids.”
I smile. “And lightning. And also swans.”
Mister Misogyny walks into the store and says “I don’t know you, and you don’t know me. I will never work for a woman again. They’re all one big ball of estrogen and hormones. Work is like…it’s like a team. A football team. And women can’t play football.”
I debate tackling him to debunk his theory that all men can play football.
"A client asked me to do a" and here I sort of faze out of the conversation "but then changed their mind. She didn’t even tell me until like six months later. It’s like, I see you step in dogshit and then I don’t say anything until you’re in my car? That’s not right. Women, right? Have you ever worked for a woman?"
I spock eye him.
"They’re awful. All of them. I’m going to go in there right now and quit."
"Well good luck on your impending career change."
"I don’t know if I’m really going to do it." He makes direct eye contact with me. "Fuck it, I’m doing it."
"Ok." I say.
"Yea. Whoooo. Thanks for psyching me up."
There is no polite way to tell the stranger in the Adult Section with the runny nose and the surprise eyeliner that he’s inspired you to create a character called Sniffles The Perverted Clown.
Random Customer: “Do you have the manga, Princess Tutu?”
I look on the shelves. “Sorry, no. Would you like me to see if I can order it for you?”
RC: “Why don’t you just have it?”
Me: “Because we don’t have room for every book that’s ever been printed.”
RC: “I didn’t ask you to have every book ever printed, I asked why you don’t have Princess Tutu. It’s very popular.”
Me: “I’m sorry. I’ve never heard of it, and no one has ever asked me about it before. But if it’s something that people want, of course we’ll order it. So which volume are you looking for?”
RC: “You should every volume on your shelf.”
Me: “What volume would you like me to order for you?”
RC: “I don’t want you to order it for me, I want you to have it.”
Me: “Well, sorry, we don’t. Sorry I couldn’t help you.” And I walk over my computer to look up Princess Tutu. “So I just looked up the book. It’s out of print.”
RC: “Well get it back in print.”
Me: “Do you know what out of print means? It means they’re not making the book anymore. The books go for about $200 on Amazon.”
RC: “I’ll only pay $9.99.”
Me: “Well, good luck with that. You might want to check used book stores. Sometimes the basement of The Harvard Book Store. They sometimes have really cheap us—”
RC: “I don’t shop in no basements.”
I spock eye her. “You’re in a basement right now.”
RC: “Yea, but I’m not going to buy anything here.”
A recent college graduate (I know because it’s a small part of her biography that she rattled off while she was in the store) came in and started scanning barcodes to price them on Amazon, and then asking me for recommendations.
I learned about her boyfriend’s recent health issues, her grandfather’s reading habits, her mother’s gall bladder surgery, her ability to discern the difference between watercolors and digital art in graphic novels, why she stopped reading manga in high school, which comics she’s bittorrented, her favorite television shows, her least favorite television shows, why she changed her major, how she wishes she still painted, what her brother wore to her graduation (which was in early December, if you were curious), which color gumball she likes best, how she folds paper bags when she’s shopping in New York,why she isn’t going to fall for the scam of reading Sandman, and more.
She bought a trade paperback and spent about seventeen (ok, not about, actually seventeen) minutes hovering around the doorway before she left.
"You thought she was cute." said a random customer.
I spock eyed him. “Huh?”
"You were flirting with that art student." He said.
"Are you kidding? Did you see that huge plastic bag I put her book in?"
"It was made from my gritted teeth."